“That’s it, you are okay now, it’s okay.” Ava croons in a soothing voice while carefully manipulating the enormous dog out of the cage. “Dude, you are huge,” she says still in the same gentle voice when the dog limps closer to her. His black head reaches her stomach easily.
It’s too big and too dangerous for her to carry, she should put him to sleep and muzzle him to properly check his injuries. Instead, Ava is trying with sweet nonsense and bait of ham to see if he will get himself onto the examination table.
She is just smart like that.
Ava could just press the button for the remote control of the collar and make her job much easier but she doesn’t want to knock him out. She doesn’t know how many times the retrieving crew used the tranquilizer before dropping him off at the clinic.
His hind leg is lame, probably broken, and his dirty coat is matted with patches of sticky blood all over, he moves like he is in pain and she hopes that he doesn’t have internal damage.
Ava may be in charge when Spears isn’t around but she hates to perform surgery alone, is not that she is bad at her job, she simply prefers to have backup in case she screws something up.
She also hates to perform surgery and would very much like to push that nasty bit onto someone else whenever possible.
Even in his weakened state, the dog looks wild and menacing with his dirty, bloody fur. The crew that brought him over told the staff to be careful because he had tried to attack them several times. So Ava really should had been professional about this and follow the procedure by not opening the cage and letting him out.
Fortunately, he is very calmly looking at her with bright blue eyes and doesn’t seem like he is going to take advantage of her foolish self. He seems so friendly with his tail wagging softly that she actually wonders if she can pet him before securing him but she restrains herself. She has been bitten a lot of times for doing exactly that.
“That’s it, just a bit more, you are doing great,” she says extremely pleased with herself when the dog hops onto the examination table and meekly waits for her to attach the collar to the security cord.
Now she indulges her urges and softly reaches to touch. She waits until he sniffs and nudges her hand before going ahead and running her fingers through his thick coat. The dry blood and dirt make it a lot less satisfying than it should be. It’s still pretty awesome.
She may be a professional naturalist use to handle animals but she rarely has the opportunity to be face to face with anything this big. The clinic’s usual clientele is made up of dogs the size of chihuahuas, cats, and the occasional fluffy rabbit.
“Now hold still, love,” she keeps talking to him while passing the X-ray tablet over him.
He has a small crack on one of his ribs which must be causing him pain and his hind leg is broken but it looks like a clean single break, she changes the function on the tablet to see the skin tissue and then the internal organs.
“Can’t see any internal damage, aren’t we lucky, just a bit of bone healing to do.” She says with honest relief “Now let’s see where the blood came from. Did you take off someone’s arm on your way here?” she asks in the baby voice she reserves for her patients.
The dog is surprisingly easy to handle, she doesn’t get what all the fuss was about. Well, she gets it, the dog is huge and looks a little bit too much like a wolf but it’s definitely not as aggressive as they claimed. He seems almost pleased at her fingers running through him, looking for injuries.
She wonders if maybe the retrieving crew was at blame, those guys did not know how to handle animals, and seeing one so big may have made them even worse at their job than they already were.
“Well that’s impressive,” says Dr. Spears from the door at the back of the room “I heard he almost ripped a few throats out, there may be a rumor about some missing fingers.”
“Maybe he just doesn’t like douchebags, I saw the new guy rattling the bars of his cage, Coach. You should fire him.”
“Mmm the blond one that looks like he is smelling his own shit all of the time? I knew I shouldn’t have hired him.” He says with a sigh “I guess I’ll let him go after a few weeks of cleaning duty. We are short-handed.”
Ava knows Spears has been too busy to interview the hired personnel himself and the HR girl that is in charge is very new herself. The clinic has been expanding since the new laws that allow regular citizens to have pets passed a few months back.
Before that, they had the occasional rich citizen with a pet that needed regular care and the injured from the preserves and City Park. Now they have visits from House Pets owners every day. Good for business, not so much for the little creatures.
House Pets that were allowed for average owners were nothing like the gigantic dog in front of Ava, they were lab-made small animals that promised easy care and cheap diets. Their average lifespan was around five years. Ava didn’t want to imagine the manufacturing process, she already hated those creepy labs.
She had heard rumors that Ackerman CO had pushed for the manufacturing and trading of House Pets, not that it was surprising they were literally everywhere. Her cereal probably was made by them too.
“Sounds good to us, doesn’t it boy?” she says to the dog and it huffs as if in agreement making Ava chuckle.
“Be careful anyway, those teeth are huge, he looks like a bloody wolf” He says looking with suspicious eyes at the dog.
“Yeah, he really does, you are a very handsome fellow aren’t you?” she coos wondering if they used actual wolf genetic material on him.
Just like most large animals, wolves had been extinct for more than a century but many facilities used a lot of resources into bringing back extinct species. It was mostly a huge waste.
“He is totally fine though, hasn’t even snapped at me once, is really friendly.”
“Sure it is… So what’s the report, Atwood? Do you need help with him? That woman that looks like cotton candy is here again” He says with distaste born from long time suffering of weird owners.
“A cracked rib, a clean fracture on the back leg, and what looks like it’s going to be a lot of stitching,” she says uncovering a big gash beneath the dirty fur “I should be fine.”
“Make sure the collar has enough tranquilizer.”
“Yes, Coach, I already did but I’m going to clean him a little first, he looks like he likes the attention.” She says still running fingers on his coat.
“Shout if he eats you.” He says before leaving.
“You know, if I didn’t know it was impossible, I’d say you are an actual wolf.” She says “Are you an illegal specimen? Yes, you are, but that’s a problem for the security people. Now, let’s see those injuries my little outlaw. Don’t eat me.”
The examination goes without a hitch, which is very unexpected, Ava is beginning to think that this wolf-dog is actually domesticated. Most of the animals she has to work with are either too traumatized or too wild for her to handle without at least a little bit of snapping teeth. Especially if they are injured and in pain like this one.
The wolf dog is letting her handle him and clean the wounds without baring his teeth only growling softly when she puts too much pressure on his injuries. He actually seems much more distressed by the shaving she needs to do before cleaning the wound than by the actual cleaning and stitching.
“Come on Balto,” she says when he flinches again at the hair cutting machine “don’t be a diva, this won’t hurt at all and it will grow back quickly. Actually, you are so dirty I should probably cut it all off” she mutters under her breath.
The dog has a lot of small cuts all over and while they’ll probably heal on their own she finally decides to take him to the tube and wash him thoroughly with antiseptic soap.
She ends up trimming most of his coat, chunks of matted fur and dirt covering the floor and exposing how thin he is. So maybe not a pet? He looks blissed out by the warm water and Ava massages him way more than she needs to before drying him carefully, mindful of his injuries.
“You like taking baths, huh? You are a weird dog, Toby” she says trying out a new name, while she wraps the big gash after he miraculously allowed her to stitch him while awake. She is starting to wonder if he has some condition that lowers his pain sensitivity.
“Well it doesn’t seem like the infection is spreading, you don’t have any fever, which is very good Hachiko, you don’t need any surgery, just some patches and time to recover.” She says to the dog that stares at her with what looks like a very unimpressed dogface “Not Hachiko uh? Very well Bruce let’s give you your pills and be over for the day.”
Ava takes a bottle of flavored pain pills from the cabinet and offers him one.
“Come on, Bruce, they are delicious and will take the pain away. It says so on the bottle,” she adds giving him convincing eyebrow play that Bruce ignores “come on I don’t actually want to push my luck opening those jaws and I’m not sure there’s any ham left. Is just a pain pill. Or is it the name? aren’t you feeling like a Bruce? Yeah, I don’t think it suits you either.”
“Okay then let’s get you back on the kennel Chaser,” she says when he finally takes the pill “I’ll come back tomorrow morning.”
The dog complies, going to the kennel with barely any guidance and curling on the floor as much as his bandages let him. He is probably exhausted, which is no wonder, the poor thing had been found on the edges of the city and doesn’t look like he has had any care in a while. Which is odd. He was spotted by a concerned citizen and then captured by the Office of Wildlife Preservation. His origins are unknown.
She and her weird boss, who insists on being called Coach Spears for some unfathomable reason and could never remember her last name, (Rosewood not Atwood) both work for the office. Spears has been in OWLP all his life and Ava has officially worked with him for a year but she has also been in this facility for much longer than that.
Her dad had been the security officer assigned to the clinic, his job consisted of making sure everything was legal, clean, and safe for the animals that came and went and mostly keeping the clinic safe from poachers. John Rosewood had been a single father with a full-time job and a hyperactive little girl that required time he simply didn’t have, so Ava ended up spending a lot of time after school at the clinic.
Seeing the animals in and out had been almost a magical experience for little Ava that had never before seen real animals around, she had fallen in love with them. When she was a bit older she grieved their loss once she understood why there were so few of them.
The world Ava was born into had very few animals left, most of them confined to natural preserves heavily warded and constantly monitored.
In the war against the Supernatural, humans had finally disrupted the balance in an irreversible way. They searched the areas where the Nemeta were hidden and burned them. Whole forests gone to ashes so there was no chance for the sacred trees to survive and once the Nemeta died everything around them died too. Animals, plants, and supernatural creatures alike.
Technology had advanced in such a manner that humans needed very little from nature anymore. They had terraforming machines to control the weather, they had big towers in the cities to clean the air, big mills where to clean the water, and big labs where to make meat directly from a petri dish.
With very little need for animals or for plants, their fear and hatred went rampant and the attacks in their effort to destroy all supernatural creatures contemplated no consequences. When all the Nemeta died, along with their surrounding ecosystems, the world had long reached the point of no return and technology could do nothing against a loss that humans didn’t understand completely.
Somehow the death of the Nemeta kept the lands from regenerating and instead of deep forests they now had big cities. The greenery that adorned the homes of the rich and big corporations buildings was mostly growth on labs, genetically modified to survive in harsh conditions since the earth refused to cooperate. The gardens were very few and very hard-earned.
The remaining supernatural creatures were confined to camps called Detachments at the edge of the cities where they lived in miserable conditions. Once in a while there was news of attempted escapes from the Detachments but weakened and highly sought after, the supernaturals either didn’t survive on their own or were hunted down.
Humanity had won but for Ava, it always felt too much like an empty victory.
Ava was lucky that she got to work with the remaining specimens of a shattered nature. OWLP had been created after the mass extinction to preserve the little bits that remained.
They also worked sometimes alongside the Hunters that still safeguarded the citizens against the occasional supernatural that made their way into the city. Poachers were also smugglers or had dealings with them and they cared very little about the species they transported. Ava’s dad had only dealt with the smuggling of animals but the OWLP and the Hunters often worked together when there was suspicion of supernaturals being involved.
Ava hated them a little every time she saw them, Hunters had been the leading force of the war, after all, and continued to treat the supernaturals much worse than animals at the Detachments.
Hunters like Nicholas Ackerman were in her expert opinion an unnecessary relic of turbulent times.
“Ava” He greeted with his usual smile, an almost imperceptible one. Nicholas wasn’t the most expressive person. He was in command of all the Hunters in the city and as an Ackerman was also in charge of the city’s Detachment. He looked just like the no-nonsense stern leader that he was supposed to be. All tall and badass in his black uniform. Ava was a bit of an exception for Nick, hence the little smile. He sometimes indulged her as he would do a daughter and Ava would always feel a little awkward about it.
She always felt a little awkward about everything concerning Nick actually because she was never sure if she liked or disliked him. She liked Nick because he was not only very hot, he was also an honorable man that believed in what he did and was always willing to help Ava with anything and everything out of some weird sense of duty towards Ava’s late father. At his core, he was a good man but Nick was a hunter and Ava could not always get past that.
Hunters were highly respected, especially the Ackerman Hunters but Ava was more in line with that part of the population that thought all of them were just bigots. And honestly, she wasn’t all too concerned by the moral implications of this, what bothered her the most was the implications of the lack of intellectual capacity that this implied.
She didn’t mean to say Nick was an ignorant fool but sometimes she could just not disregard how ignorantly foolish most hunters were.
“Hi, Nick, what’s up? Oh Scotty I thought you would come in tomorrow.” She greets as she realizes that her friend and colleague is coming in behind the hunter with his dopey smile and puppy brown eyes. No wonder Scott is so good with animals, the guy is the least threatening person ever. Even his dark hair looks fluffy and harmless. It makes quite the contrast with Nick with his blue eyes that never miss a detail and greying short hair, if you pay attention Nick actually does have very soft eyes, is just that no one ever notices because of his reddy-for-action attitude.
“Yeah, but Coach told me there was a huge dog that you might need help with.”
“That’s why I’m here actually” Says Nick “I heard it was found roaming around the edge of the city walls, any idea where it came from? If it’s really that exotic I doubt he was someone lost pet, it may be from outside the city or an underground lab.”
“Well, you would have to ask the boys about the location, I wasn’t on the retrieving crew but nothing really exotic about it, just a little larger than average dog” she lies through her teeth shrugging and hoping they don’t ask her to see him because Chaser could easily be mistaken for a wolf or be very closely related to one and very likely to catch unwanted attention not only from the Poachers but from Ackerman CO and the Hunters “I just finished with him actually, he is big but very gentle, no problems with him at all. Probably used to belong to someone in the city, he was very easy to handle. I was about to tell Spears about it, see if there are any missing pets. Really, these people, you would think that after the very expensive permits they go to the trouble of getting they would at least think twice before losing their pet but no. I mean seriously how selfish can people be? there must be a limit to it, you would think that almost destroying the world would be the tipping point but it’s like there was no point to the whole massacre” Ava babbles on hoping to distract them, it’s fine since talking nonstop and nonsensically is one of her trademark movements. It works easily with Scott who nods sympathetically but Nick is narrowing his eyes at her knowing perfectly that Ava is trying to deflect.
“You sure it’s a pet? Easy to handle isn’t exactly what the report said” He asks
“Please,” she snorts “those new guys get scared with a kitten, he might have been a tad aggressive with them but the blond one was provoking him in his cage, you know poking at it and rattling the bars and stuff like that. The asshat. The dog was totally fine with me.”
“What? Why would he do that? That’s awful” squeaks Scott full of righteous anger. Like a growling bunny.
“Yeah, Coach is going to fire him. After putting him on cleaning duty for a while,” she says and Nick smiles a little bit. Good.
Ava doesn’t know if it’s wild and was captured from one of the preserves or if it’s someone’s pet that got lost or if is some underground lab success story about to be sold in the black market, as long as Nick doesn’t ask her to see it.
If he does his interest will be picked because exotic creatures are always the main target of smugglers and the ones willing to take the chance to transport such animals are often the ones willing to transport supernaturals, and if it catches Nick’s attention then he will catch someone else’s attention and go straight to some lab where he will live a short and miserable existence.
“Well, I guess this was a waste of time… but let me know if nothing turns out in the owner search, it’s odd that it’s not chipped,” says Nick obviously not convinced.
“Maybe it was a new pet or maybe it was smuggled, either way, is not like the dog can tell you who did it,” Ava says
“Ava… I won’t take him to the labs, now, is it really as big as they say?”
“If you open a new case based on one animal at the clinic you have to report it and everyone will know and he will end up in the labs whether you take him or not. Not like you care” Ava says acidly.
“And how will you keep him from the labs if it is actually rare? You also have to report it whether I open up a search or not,” Nick asks her with more patience than most people have for her.
“I’ll manage,” she says dodgily “It’s just a big dog Nick, not a coyote or anything like that, is not a weird species is just big.”
“Big enough that you won’t show it to me,” he said with a sigh “I won’t report it Ava, but if you are doing anything illegal...”
“I’m not! I just want to send him to a preserve before anyone notices he was here.”
“All right, but you could have just said so,” he said raising a disappointed eyebrow “See you around, let me know how it goes,” He says and walks out.
“Man, why do you always have to pick a fight with Nick? It never even works. Don’t know why, he is happy to pick fights with me” Scott says sulking
“Maybe because I never dated the man’s daughter” She answers and rolls her eyes “Come on I have paperwork to do,” She says pushing Scott towards the exit “Oh, wait I’m forgetting my keys”
She steps back to the examination room where she left Chaser in his cage and his blue eyes are laser-focused on her. “Oh, did we wake you up? Sorry love, hunters you know? can’t keep their noses to themselves. See you tomorrow buddy” She says grabbing her keys from the table before going to Scott who is poking his head looking open-mouthed at the dog.
“Dude, that’s huge,” Scott says “it looks like a wolf.”
“Which is why I think the labs would jump at the chance to get him, get his DNA samples, try to breed him, clone him and keep him there in case they need anything more.”
“But it’s good if they clone him, isn’t it? We get more diversity in dog breeds and maybe even a wolf, wouldn’t that be awesome? You are always on about ecosystems and diversity and stuff.”
“And now I know you don’t pay any attention to it,” she says with her most unimpressed face “Scott we can’t have diversity because we don’t have the space or the natural resources to maintain the species. And you know how many of them die in those labs? No one knows how to keep them alive and most are infertile. It would be awesome if we could have more of everything but the labs are not the answer. No wonder you are failing classes, I know you are not going for the Naturalist degree but you are still a vet you should know this stuff.”
“Hey, I did much better this semester” he complains.
“Because Allison was horrified at your test results. They were very horrifying.”
“Speaking of which... you don’t actually need my help right?” Says Scott in a hopeful tone.
“Nope, unless you want to do my paperwork, which you are very welcome to.”
“I think I’ll pass I was going to see Allison” He says grinning.
“See? that’s why Nick doesn’t like you. See you tomorrow. Oh, and make sure you submit those papers tonight Scotty.”
“I know dude, the date limit is till next week though.”
“I don’t care if is next month you always forget so you better do it tonight or I’ll phone you every single night date you have from here till next year, Scott”
“I’ll do it as soon as I get home.” He says “See you tomorrow”
“Have fun” She says distracted by the many forms she has to fill and making a mental note to send a text to Ally and ask her to make sure Scott submits the permits, the guy is forgetful like a granny, and all their plans to go to live in the Beacon Hills preserve are resting on those files.
She gives a tired sigh and goes to the front store to see if Spears needs help with anything before she can go home.
Logan watched her go from within the cold uncomfortable cage he was in, he was given dog food again, he ate it before because he had been starving but the girl looks like she is soft on strays, if he waits enough she will try to feed him something else, maybe some more of that ham.
The indignity of it all stopped bothering him a while ago, the time he spent at the werewolves Detachment had been more than enough to rob him of every bit of shame and scruples that he may have possessed, granted, they were never that many, to begin with.
Now he is not above to make lamb eyes to a stupid girl and play nice with her as long as she feeds him and keeps the rest of the humans away. He hates them all, nice girl, weird boss, hunter, and friend included. He may even hate her more than the asshole rattling his cage and prodding at him. At least that one was an honest dirtbag, this girl is nice as long as he is, but the moment she feels a hint of danger all privileges will fade. He hates her more because she is nice and she has no right to be. Still, his instincts crave a gentle touch and soothing voice, he wants contact and pack, he wants to feel safe and all that only makes him hate her more.